Meet the Beemer (My 1957 Canned Ham)

You guys, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. 

I try not to talk about it, because it’s a bit embarrassing. I mean, I’m supposed to be “simple” living.

Let’s just get it out in the open:

I have another vintage trailer (a second one). Don’t tell the COMET, she might be mad I never really tied up loose ends with my first vintage love. 

It’s a 1957 Beemer, and it’s a lot like the shameful uncle no one likes to talk about. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to acknowledge it or think about it too much. 

Matt and I got the Beemer just a few months after we started casually dating. It happened in a whirlwind, it was my first “big” purchase as a real human, and I kinda didn’t tell my parents about it until I pulled into their driveway with it. 

I really dragged Matt into the whole project without his consent, but building something with our hands together as a team turned out to be a really important part of our relationship. I knew Matt had the talent and skills to design and restore something like a vintage trailer, so I asked him to direct his talents into this project. We got to work. 

Going inside for the first time!

Going inside for the first time!


First Timers

The 1957 Beemer and the 1969 Avalon (which you now lovingly know as the COMET) both came from the same guy. You might have heard of him: he had started an indoor vintage trailer park/living collective in Bushwick (NYC) inside a warehouse space. It was a way to live cheaply in the city. Creatives, artists, and musicians lived together but separate in their private trailers, with shared amenities. It was a brilliant idea and wonderfully executed. 

But all good things come to an end.

And when the fire department discovered the trailer park, they were not impressed. So our guy had to vacate the warehouse, and get rid of all of his vintage trailers (about 25) immediately, before they got towed away by the parking authority. Some were given to homeless people as housing, some were given to family and friends, and some ended up on Craigslist, where I found them. He was willing to tow the trailer to the destination of my choice, and since I didn’t have a tow vehicle and didn’t want to tell my parents, I was sold. 

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When we met up to make the deal, we got to talking about became good friends. He was really surprised I wasn’t a 60 year old man (this was before tons of cool girls had their own trailers - not to say I started a trend but umm..). This was a year before we got the Avalon (the COMET). 


The Original Plan

When Matt and I first brought the camper home we felt this incredible exhilaration and “high” that we’ve been chasing ever since. It was like all the sudden these immense possibilities opened up to us. Design-wise, our minds went WILD. We talked all night about different design ideas, how we were going to make it the best trailer ever, and how we would sell it when we were done. 

You see, our plan was to RESTORE the trailer to it’s exact, authentic, perfectly 1957 self. The materials, the fixtures, the panels - we were going all out. This of course led to the research rabbit hole. I was committed to knowing exactly what 1957 was like. None of that “boomerang” laminate bullshit - we were talking manufacturer and region-specific down to a T. I sourced real barkcloth, vintage lamps, reproduction tail-light lenses, and the LAST surviving piece of laminate that was popular in the year 1957. I spent thousands of dollars (my life’s savings) on the trailer and it's finishes. 

We got started and did all the hard stuff. We repaired everything that was rotten, old, worn out, or broken. We replaced birch panels. We re-wired the whole damn thing. We got pretty far that summer. And when winter came, we packed her into a tarp and got excited about picking up where we left off the next spring. 

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So, What Happened?

Well, the COMET happened. And that’s why we put the whole Beemer project on hold. 

In the dead of winter, I get a call from our guy in New York. He had a place (parking lot) to store a few of his favorite trailers that were evicted from the indoor trailer park the year before, but he was running out of room (and rent was expensive) and he wanted more Aistreams and less Canned Hams. He asked me if I would take this 1969 Avalon trailer off of his hands. He figured I could sell it, make a few hundred bucks. He needed it gone ASAP. 

I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission, I just said YES and figured I’d deal with the problems that would inevitably come from being a 19 year old with two vintage trailers and no place to really put either of them. I think he called me because he knew I was obsessed and wouldn’t be able to say no. 

So that night, he brought the Avalon to my “house” (I was living in a room in a commune in MA at the time) from NYC. He towed it up in the middle of the night, and unloaded the trailer in my driveway at around 3 AM. What was I thinking? 

I kept the Avalon and I ran with it. I had been waiting 4 years to start my off-grid trailer project, so I said screw it, this trailer will work, let’s start it now. 

I got funding for the COMET and suddenly the little Beemer was put on the back burner until the COMET, which had deadlines and commitments, was finished. Of course I didn’t realize that these projects can take years!

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My Secret Plans

I’ve been thinking about the Beemer lately. I’ve come up with a few secret plans for the little guy these past few months. I have a few potential ideas that I might pursue. Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the Comments section!

 

1. Finish the 100% Authentic Restoration

Some of the materials are purchased, but there's still so much more to source and buy. And authentic, vintage, and reproduction items are sooo expensive. This is by far the most costly option, which is why I hesitate. I would have to sell the trailer for a lot to recoup even just the materials cost.

 

2. Turn the 1957 Beemer into a mobile boutique

As you might now, I run a small business - an online vintage clothing shop (yep I love all things vintage!). Right now everything is online. But I've seen more and more vintage trailer boutiques/mobile shops pop up around the country. It's the perfect place to sell vintage clothes, in a vintage trailer! So basically I would be turning the Beemer into more of a "retail" space, with some racks, shelves, and display area.  It would mean going to events, flea markets, private parties, etc. I would of course save all the original parts.

I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to vintage camper boutiques, because I think they are awesome. If you want to know what I mean, check it out here.

 

3. Turn the Beemer into another mobile-business.

There are lots of other examples of vintage trailers turned into small businesses. Photo-booth for weddings comes to mind - and Matt's a photographer so that's one option. I have an idea to create a mobile museum of sorts, more of an educational tool about a subject I'm passionate about (similar to how the COMET is about sustainability education). The possibilities are endless!

 

4. Finish the Beemer in a modern/new way.

Lately I've been seeing more and more trailer renovations. One thing I learned from doing the COMET Camper was that it's way more fun to do your own thing design-wise than to stick with a very strict era/authentic restoration. As I said, authentic restorations are super expensive. So I'm thinking about doing it in a more DIY way - using more fun materials and creating a "cabin" type feel. Then I'd have to decide to keep or sell her.

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I'm not really sure what comes next for this cute little trailer. She's tiny - 12 ft long. I love her original interior, but I also love doing new things. I would like to sell her to re-coup some of the investment we've made, but I also just want to keep this rare, beautiful little canned ham forever.

I know our first priority is the COMET Camper right now, but after that I have to decide what path we'll take with our first vintage-trailer love. I'd love to have your input below!